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Ireland's housing crisis

A few things we can be sure of in most discussions of Ireland's housing crisis: One is that we will discuss the effects on a minority - a minority facing terrible privation on the streets or in emergency accommodation, but still a minority. The other assumption will be that the housing crisis is problem of supply.

Both assumptions are incorrect.The housing crisis effects the vast majority of working people. It is not a problem of supply but another link in the chain of austerity through which this tiny state meets almost half of the European banking debt.

The majority of workers are within homes. They are not living on the streets, in emergency accommodation or in housing hubs. However many live only a few steps from falling behind with mortgage payments or rent or bring told by the landlord to shift. The majority face the threat of eviction and the horrors that could follow as a constant worry.

In the face of that threat people take out mortgages at many multiples of their salary and live every day balancing mortgage payments against food, health, transport and education costs. The government claim that renters are protected, but regulation is so lax that people regularly fall victim to extortion or, in many cases, face ” improvement” or “maintenance” charges that double  costs - often these options are not offered and people are thrown onto the streets.

In the years of openly declared austerity the government slashed wages, services and pensions and these have not been restored. Now, in a period of proclaimed recovery, workers are squeezed through rental costs by a troika of local landlords, vulture funds and a combination of the two in retail investment vehicles. To add insult to injury, we subsidise many of these gangsters through the government levying little or no tax.

The standard way to square the circle would be to increase wages, but the recent nurses strike demonstrates that the Public Service Stability Agreement between government and union leaders blocks that road for public sector workers and holds down wages for the majority of workers.

The housing issue is not simply a humanitarian issue. It is one edge of a scissors, the other being wage control. The two blades mean that we pay over and over again for the banker's crimes, with no end in sight.

Movements, confrontations, protests spring up again and again. The task for activists is to help pull these into one national upsurge by the working class to pose a  socialist alternative to endless exploitation.

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